Working for yourself can be at once incredibly freeing and also terrifying. Freelance income usually doesn’t have the same regularity as a monthly payday when you’re on a contract, and the phrase ‘feast or famine’ can often apply.
Some weeks or months, you can find yourself snowed under with work, only to have it all suddenly dry up. If you’re not forward-planning for the lean times, you could find yourself in increasing financial difficulty.
Here are some top tips for getting the most out of your freelance business:
We’re not talking about your figure here; instead, you need to start trimming the fat from your expenses. Until you’re in a position to have a regular income with a financial cushion in a savings account, you should take a more ascetic approach to life for a while.
Cut out treats, luxuries and unnecessary expenses by setting up a monthly budget and tracking your expenditure. Separating it into categories will show you at a glance where you’re overspending, and this is even easier if you use one of the many modern smartphone budgeting apps.
Become your own administrator
It’s easy to get caught up in the bread-and-butter of your business at the expense of your administration, but you really should be carving out a certain amount of working time each work for the bureaucratic stuff too.
It might not be as exciting as the activities that make you money, but by spending some time every week reviewing your accounts, expenses, invoices, clients, subscriptions, insurances and any other of those little boring bits you usually avoid, you could actually save yourself money that could be used to help you survive without stress during the leaner times.
Consider some quick wins
We’ve all been there: we get to a stage in our freelance careers where we set an appropriate value on our work and commit to not working for less. That’s a fantastic attitude and one that’s required for success as your own boss.
However, those higher fees might mean longer sales pipelines and a narrowing client base; when times get tough, you should consider being less rigid and see if you can get some quick wins by taking up smaller, lower-paid jobs on one of the many freelance gig sites out there like Upwork, Freelancer, People Per Hour or Fiverr.
One caveat here: if you do this, make sure that it’s just a temporary measure. Don’t find yourself slipping back into regular, low-paid work. You are the master of your own destiny, and you can choose to take work like this to help you through periods when there’s fewer lucrative jobs in your pipeline, but get off that track and onto the better work again as soon as you can.
Focus on your leads
Selling yourself is one of the hardest things for most freelancers, but it’s likely that over the years you’ve built up a substantial database of leads – you just don’t realise it. Every time you’ve come this close to getting a job, only to be pipped at the post, you’ve created a lead. Every client you’ve worked with in the past who stopped issuing jobs, that’s a lead.
Take the time to go through all of your emails, invoices, correspondences and other means of communication and gather up all those cold, dormant or irregular leads into a database you can use for marketing.
Send out an email re-introducing yourself, explaining where your business is situated now and how it has grown, and promoting the new or improved skills you have. Ask for business; you don’t have to be pushy, just a friendly email to say that you’re growing the business and are in the market for work.
Follow up those emails too after a given period, with an email pipeline. A friendly reminder a week later, then a final email to say you’ll remove them from the list if you don’t hear from them can be a useful way to shake potential clients into action.
Above all else, don’t be afraid to get in touch; the ratio of emails to responses might be low, but you might just find you’ve timed it perfectly with that one client who had forgotten about you, but who needs a new job completed.